- Dating with Social Anxiety
- So, what is going on in my head during these virtual conversations? Well, here is an example: (I’ve used a fake name to protect the innocent)
- My Tips for Dating with Social Anxiety
- 1. Be honest
- 2. Practice!
- 3. Message a friend beforehand for encouragement
- 4. Arrive a little early
- 5. Remember your CBT
- 6. Play it safe
- 5 Ways to Overcome Dating Anxiety
- Interesting Places to Meet Your Future Spouse
- Dating Anxiety in The Age of Tinder
- Social Anxiety
- Why We Feel Social Anxiety
- Dating Anxiety
- A Frequent Scenario
- How to Ease Your Pre-Date Anxiety
- Take the Focus Off of You
- Share What You’re Comfortable Sharing
- Be Nice to Yourself
- Texting and Dating
- The First Date
- Relax Your Mind, Relax Your Body
- Sometimes It’s Simply Not Going to Go As You Hoped
- Online Dating
- Safety Tips on Your First Date
- 10 Tips for Finding Love and Dating With Social Anxiety
- Tip 1: Exercise
- Tip 2: Avoid Cliché Meeting Places, Find Smaller Groups
- Tip 3: If Anxiety Hits, Don't Be Shy About It
- Tip 4: Practice Without Expectations
- Tip 5: Always Start Strong
- Tip 6: Get/Use a Best Friend
- Tip 7: Keep Going After Panic
- Tip 8: Learning to Breathe Better
- Tip 9: Stay Busy After Dates
- Tip 10: Go Have Experiences
- Overcoming Social Anxiety and Dating
Dating with Social Anxiety
Dating can be daunting in general, but if you struggle with social anxiety, it can seem impossible at times. For me, one who struggles with social anxiety, dating can be a difficult process. As a 23-year old female, I’ve dipped my feet into the dating realm via a dating app.
I find that meeting a romantic prospect through friends or work has never worked for me and meeting men at bars or clubs never turns into anything. For a socially-anxious person, using a dating app may seem the natural choice, as it starts with a virtual interaction – vs.
a face-to-face interaction; however, it doesn’t make it any easier.
When I begin “virtually speaking” with a prospective date, I find that the conversations can be extremely stressful for me. I become consumed with what to say, how long to wait before replying, and trying to decipher what that other person “really” thinks about me. These elements stir up my anxiety and send my self-worth plummeting.
“What I think is happening and what is actually happening end up being two completely different things.”
It doesn’t matter if the conversation is by text, email, or via an app, I feel insecure regardless the mode of communication, and always end up believing that the other person is judging me.
I find that communicating virtually lacks vulnerability and leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and what I think is happening and what is actually happening end up being two completely different things.
So, what is going on in my head during these virtual conversations? Well, here is an example: (I’ve used a fake name to protect the innocent)
Derek: Hey! How’s it going?
Me: Hey! Pretty good, just got back from volunteering, how about you?
My Bully-Filled Head: That’s not good enough, you don’t sound interesting.
Derek: That’s awesome, I just got off work.
My Bully-Free Head: All I can really ask about now is his work…
Me: Nice! Where do you work?
Derek: At an engineering firm, what about you?
My Bully-Filled Head: Oh no, now I have to tell him I’m unemployed, and he’s going to think I’m unemployed because I suck.
Me: I’m just looking for work right now! I just got school.
My Bully-Filled Head: He’s not interested, the conversation is boring, and it’s my fault.
Derek: Oh nice, where did you go to school?
“A completely normal conversation can be completely highjacked by the bully in my head.”
You see, what is a completely normal conversation can be completely highjacked by the bully in my head. I find typical conversations extremely hard. But what happens when the conversations that I think went horribly wrong actually go well is worse – I have to go on an actual date and meet them in person – this is a whole new ballgame for anxiety.
When it’s a couple of days before the date, I feel quite optimistic, then when the actual day of the date hits, so does my social anxiety. The “what ifs” come in. The bully in my head puts pressure on me to act the perfect human, carry on a flawless conversation, and act I’m not extremely anxious.
Thoughts of having to make eye contact with my date and being in a public place start to take over and fuel the bully as well. So, before a date, I not only stress about the date itself, but I panic about the anxiety itself.
I do however manage to get myself the door and to the date, but my anxiety doesn’t end there, my anxiety can persist throughout the date, but fortuntatley its intensity can decrease after some time has passed.
“I now understand that feeling anxious when it comes to dating is also a shared human experience and that I am not alone.”
With practice, dating has gotten a lot easier for me. At the beginning of my dating experimentation, my bully convinced me that I was “less than” for feeling nervous and having social anxiety. Now, through opening up to people, I’ve learned that we’re all going through experiences in life and we all have things we are ashamed of.
I now understand that feeling anxious when it comes to dating is also a shared human experience and that I am not alone. Now my approach to dating includes telling the other person when I am nervous because acting on the nerves decreases the negative thoughts I experience.
When I choose to tell my date that I am nervous, it forms a connection of vulnerability between two people; then my date feels comfortable telling me that he’s nervous as well.
If you suffer from social anxiety, Anxiety Canada has a great section on social anxiety, including information on what social anxiety is, how to recognize social anxiety, and home management strategies that you can use to manage your social anxiety – https://www.anxietycanada.com/adults/social-anxiety-disorder.
My Tips for Dating with Social Anxiety
“Well, this is awkward.”
Those were the magical words I uttered to my now-husband Dan when we first met. It didn’t help that he initially went in for a hug, whereas I’m firmly a handshake person. But I definitely shocked him with my opening statement.
Social anxiety can make dating tricky … or, if I’m totally honest, it makes it a nightmare. As someone who hates interviews, my performance on a date was never going to be great. After all, a first date is essentially just an extremely personal work interview — except with cocktails (if you’re lucky).
For example, some of my closest friends thought I was an ice queen when we first met. If I really a person — in a romantic way or not — I tend to be aloof and avoid eye contact. I come across as being bored or uninterested, but I’m actually just having an anxious episode. The fear of saying the “wrong thing” or coming across a loser is all-consuming.
But back to my first date with my husband: I arrived at the train station at least 10 minutes early, sweating buckets, and debated whether or not I should get there before I made a fool of myself.
But soon enough, I was sat in a bar with him, my temperature running high. I couldn’t take my sweater off because I was sweating so much — no one wants to see sweat stains! My hands were shaking so I couldn’t reach for my glass of wine, in case he’d notice.
Dan: “Tell me more about what you do.”
Me (internally): “Stop looking at me, I need to have a sip of my wine.”
Me (externally): “Oh, I just work in publishing. What do you do?”
Dan: “Yeah, but, what do you do in publishing?”
Me (internally): “[Bleep]”
Me (externally): “Nothing much, hahaha!”
At this point, he bent down to tie his shoelace, during which time I literally downed half my glass. This took the edge off my nerves. Not the best solution, but what can you do. Fortunately, he turned out to me for exactly who I was. I eventually told him about having social anxiety (while locked in a hotel bathroom on vacation … long story). The rest is history.
My experiences have given me a lot of insight into which strategies help — and which strategies definitely don’t help — when it comes to finding a meeting point between an active dating life and living with social anxiety. I hope the following tips can be of help!
1. Be honest
I don’t mean admit that you have social anxiety as soon as you meet. I mean be honest about the venue you’d be most comfortable in.
For example, if they suggest bowling, dining in a restaurant, or something else that makes you nervous, then say so. Having social anxiety is hard enough without feeling uncomfortable in your surroundings.
You don’t have to go into too much detail. Just say something , “Actually, I’m not a fan of that” or “I’d rather do [X], if that’s okay.”
One of the great things about dating apps is that they give you the option to meet lots of new people. If you find the dating scene nerve-racking, then why not build up your confidence by going on a few practice dates?
3. Message a friend beforehand for encouragement
I usually say something , “I’m freaking out … please tell me how amazing I am!”
4. Arrive a little early
Being at the venue before your date can give you time to acclimatize and get comfy. But don’t arrive more than 10 minutes early!
5. Remember your CBT
Do a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) “Thought Record” in advance to challenge any negative thoughts.
6. Play it safe
A first date is definitely not the time to try out a new hairstyle or makeup look. The mere possibility that it will all go wrong will do enough to your stress levels. Just keep it simple. Choose something that makes you feel comfortable but confident.
Going on a date when you have social anxiety can feel daunting, but your anxiety doesn’t have to stop you from living life. Taking a few healthy steps can make a world of difference!
Claire Eastham is a blogger and the best-selling author of “We’re All Mad Here.” You can connect with her on her website or tweet her @ClaireyLove.
5 Ways to Overcome Dating Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorder in the US, affecting 18 percent of the adult population. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is the third-most-common psychological disorder, affecting 15 million men and women in the US.
The DSM-5 defines social anxiety as the “persistent fear of one or more situations in which the person is exposed to possible scrutiny by others and fears that he or she may do something or act in a way that will be humiliating or embarrassing.
” Those who are shy, if not socially anxious, tend to experience social situations in a more reserved, tense and uncomfortable manner, especially when meeting new people. It may take longer to open up and share, which can affect one’s ability to form close relationships.
Dating is typically a situation where people feel scrutinized, have to meet new people, and may fear they’ll do something embarrassing. In this way, dating only adds fuel to the anxiety fire.
Rife with opportunities for awkward conversations and infinite unknown factors — Will she show up? Will he me? What do I say? What if I say too much? What if I spill my drink? Get rejected? – dating often is seen as overwhelmingly scary and decidedly unappealing.
This type of anxiety and shyness leads to avoidance of meeting new people, as well as a sense of isolation and hopelessness about the prospect of finding a suitable partner.
Despite the high incidence of anxiety disorders, adults often don’t seek treatment until years of suffering with the disorder have passed, if they seek treatment at all.
Because anxiety disorders typically start in early adolescents or pre-teen years, it can be hard to recognize anxiety disorders. And anxiety left untreated often leads to developing comorbid disorders, such as depression.
People may assume it’s normal to feel the type of anxiety they experience, or believe the anxiety is something that can’t be treated.
Because social anxiety is such a widespread problem, psychologists have worked hard to develop treatments that work. Four separate meta-analyses have shown Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to be effective in treating SAD.
In 2007, researchers Kristy Dalrymple from Brown Medical School and James Herbert at Drexel University conducted a small pilot study on an updated approach to social anxiety.
Noting that CBT was effective for social anxiety in some clients but not others, or didn’t fully alleviate symptoms, they sought to explore further treatment options in the form of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
The foundation of ACT is learning to accept that anxiety and internal struggle is a part of living fully, and that leading a life guided by personal values and willingness to experience life–as opposed to anxiety-based avoidance and decision making–is ultimately what frees one from the constraints of anxiety.
The researchers found that upon follow up of a 12-week ACT and exposure program, the participants reported increased quality of life, decreased avoidance and reduced anxiety. Another study in 2009, focusing on acceptance and mindfulness-based group therapy, also showed similar gains for people with social anxiety.
In my work, and in my life in general, I so frequently saw amazing people who were deserving of love and companionship, but who were paralyzed by fear, struggling with loneliness and hopelessness rooted in anxiety.
Knowing there were treatments that could (and did) help them gain confidence and a new perspective, I felt compelled to write a book about the skills that help people get past social anxiety. Single, Shy and Looking for Love: A Dating Guide For The Shy and Socially Anxious describes these evidence-based techniques.
Combining ACT with traditional exposure and cognitive techniques rooted in CBT, here are some of the most effective ways to approach dating anxiety:
Shy and anxious people are less ly to share about themselves and self-disclose. Dating advice books may prescribe pick-up lines or manipulative, gamey strategies to win over a date.
But real relationships are based upon sharing who you are with your date. Self-disclosure is the gateway to intimacy–it lets you get closer to someone as you both reveal more and more.
Yet the last thing a shy or anxious person may feel comfortable doing is letting their guard down, which is why practicing sharing is a vital element.
Practicing self-disclosure might include letting your date know about a story or person that is special to you, sharing how you felt about a recent event, or letting your date know that you think they look great. Self-disclosure is simply telling people what you think, how you feel, and letting them see what matters to you.
Reducing the threat of judgment from others–and yourself
One of the reasons people may not disclose more about themselves is for fear of being judged.
The threat of negative evaluation from others–such as being negatively perceived by your date–is the root of social anxiety, and is exacerbated in a dating setting. Most of the time, anxious daters highly overestimate how harshly their partner is judging them.
If a social situation goes awry, they automatically blame themselves. If they make a comment that comes out wrong, they beat themselves up for hours or days afterwards. They assume the other person thinks the worst of them and is focusing on their flaws and mistakes.
This is usually because people who are socially anxious tend to have lower self-esteem and make automatic negative assumptions about themselves. Because they judge themselves harshly, they assume others do, too. And it makes them not want to share, be open or be vulnerable.
There is an alternative to being guarded. By focusing on one’s sense of self-acceptance and self-worth, it feels less intimidating to share with others.
When a person feels good about who they are, their values and what they have to offer, and sees their own experience in a compassionate way, it bolsters them against judgment.
By calming their harshest critic, their own inner judge, it opens the door to experiencing closer connections with others.
Reframing catastrophic cognitions
The second way to approach the threat of judgment from others and from oneself is reframing catastrophic thinking. Because anxiety can cause catastrophic thoughts to take over, an effective strategy is to notice, point out and contradict catastrophic thoughts.
Thoughts , it’s the end of the world if I’m rejected, I’ll never find someone, or that was a complete disaster, are common in anxiety. Gently remind yourself that the anxiety is exaggerating these beliefs, and then list reasons that the thoughts are not fully accurate.
This will help quell the predictions of disaster that can be so devastating to the process of finding love.
Mindfulness and emotional intelligence
Anxiety thrives by focusing on the future and the past, engendering worry about what will go wrong, how the future will play out or how past events have gone wrong. The alternative is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a conscious effort to focus on the present moment, the here-and-now. Connecting to the present moment with acceptance rather than judgment leads to greater emotional awareness within oneself.
And emotional awareness is one important component of emotional intelligence (EI), or being able to discern one’s own and other people’s emotions and tailor behavior accordingly.
A recent research meta-analysis showed a strong association between EI and relationship satisfaction. This means that for both men and women, couples with high EI tended to be happier in their love life together. In order to glean the benefits of EI in dating and new relationships, the focus should be on learning to:
1) Monitor and understand one’s own emotions, rather than push emotions away or ignore them
2) Self-soothe and cope with emotions when they arise
3) Harness emotions to problem-solve or help a situation
4) Listen, tune into, and accurately perceive the feelings of your date
5) Show empathy and create a connection through shared experiences.
The message is one of hope. Social anxiety can be debilitating, isolating and lonely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With treatment, practice and a willingness to try new behaviors, dating anxiety can be overcome.
Interesting Places to Meet Your Future Spouse
The gym can be a good place to meet potential dates.
Getty / Blend Images / JGI/Jamie Grill
If you live with dating anxiety, you may have trouble knowing how and where to meet people.
Traditional spots for meeting partners such as bars or the local supermarket require you to strike up a conversation—a task that can be difficult if you have severe anxiety.
If you live with social anxiety disorder (SAD) or are simply chronically shy, chances are that these situations will not showcase your best qualities.
Fortunately, there are many ways to meet people that do not require you to display wit or charm on cue. Below are some suggestions on where to meet people if you live with social anxiety.
Enter the dating scene by letting family and friends know that you are looking. Those closest to you ly have a good sense of your unique qualities and who might be compatible as a dating partner.
Going on a date may feel less nerve-wracking if your potential date is a friend of someone whom you know.
Best of all—you won't need to try out any pickup lines, as the family friend date can be arranged through your mutual contact. Your friend or family member can arrange a blind date, or you could go on a double date to make the first encounter less stressful.
Don’t overlook groups to which you already belong, such as your church or neighborhood association. If you have not been very active in attending events organized by these groups in the past, try helping to organize their next event. As you work alongside others in the group, they will become more familiar to you, and you may find yourself more at ease exploring romantic possibilities.
One of the best ways to meet potential romantic partners is to join a service organization or spend time volunteering. Choose an organization with a cause in which you believe, such as protecting the environment or animal rights, and you will meet -minded people. Working together in a group creates a sense of camaraderie that makes it easier to get to know people on a personal level.
Whether you are in college or university, or just taking an adult education class, meeting people in a classroom setting has many advantages. Classes usually last for several months, giving you enough time to get to know people.
Difficult assignments or upcoming exams also give you an excuse to get together for study sessions or to compare notes. Best of all, being in the same class gives you an automatic topic for conversation—what do you think of the teacher, are you enjoying the class? Having common ground is much easier than starting from scratch.
If you have a job, meeting someone at work may be the easiest way for you to find a partner. Instead of hiding at your desk during lunch, join your coworkers and make a point of asking about their weekends, their families, and their hobbies. Even if you don't end up finding a romantic match, you might make some new friends along the way.
Don’t be too quick to discount using online dating services or personal ads. The hard part of meeting people, that is, approaching strangers, is much easier in an online environment.
People who place personal ads online or in the newspaper are also usually serious about finding romantic partners. Best of all, you have the chance to carefully put together a personal description that reflects your true inner spirit—qualities that are probably not going to shine through during a quick encounter.
Even if you have never played sports in your life, they can be a great avenue for meeting people. Joining a beginner sports league such as baseball or volleyball gives you the chance to learn a new skill while also building new relationships.
In addition, watching how others handle themselves during a game—whether they show good sportsmanship and offer help and advice to newcomers to the sport—can tell you a lot about how they would conduct themselves in a romantic relationship.
If you own a dog, take it to a dog park! Look for other owners who are there on their own and strike up a conversation. Having the dogs to talk about will help to break the ice, and knowing that you have at least one thing in common is a good starting point for conversation.
If you don’t already have a hobby, think about what interests you. Perhaps you always wanted to join a book club or gardening group.
By participating in a hobby with opportunities for social gatherings, the odds of you meeting -minded people will increase. Best of all, if your hobby is a passion, you will find it easier to strike up conversations with people you meet who share your passion.
Browsing in a specialty store gives you the opportunity to meet people with similar interests. Take notice of the books that strangers are looking at or the music that they pick up.
If you see an opportunity to comment on an item that you —take it. Talking with people about things you are passionate about is easier than grasping at conversation topics.
If you are just shy or nervous about dating, you probably still push yourself to go on dates and form romantic relationships. On the other hand, if you live with SAD, you may avoid romantic pursuits altogether.
Unfortunately, if this behavior is allowed to continue over a long period of time, your chance of meeting someone and having a satisfying romantic relationship is greatly reduced.
Proper diagnosis and treatment including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or medication can help you to overcome the symptoms of SAD.
Take the first step toward getting help and you will become more open to meeting new people and excited about the romantic prospects that await you.
Dating Anxiety in The Age of Tinder
There are so many singles I see in my practice who struggle with dating. It’s one of the most talked about issues among my clients. Some feel anxious and confused about the whole dating scene. So, let’s start with some of the basics.
First, here’s some information about anxiety in general. About 18% of American adults have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder; that’s approximately 40 million people. Of that 40 million, social anxiety, in particular, affects about 15 million men and women in the U.S.
Let’s take a step back a little and define just what anxiety is: anxiety, according to Merriam-Webster, is fear or nervousness about what might happen.
When we get scared about a situation, we can start to hyperventilate – breathe too fast.
This can lead to an overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by other physiological signs such as sweating, tension, feeling light-headed, chest pain, rapid thoughts, and increased heart rate.
There are two types of anxiety that we are going to look at in this blog: social anxiety and a subset of social anxiety that we call dating anxiety. I think it’s important to understand what all of this means so that you can better cope with any anxiety that you might feel.
Social anxiety is just that. It is the anxiety or fear that you might feel in various social situations where people meet individually or in groups. Most of us have felt that from time to time.
It’s not a real problem if your social anxiety generally is low to moderate. If that’s the case, you will ly function fairly well in these situations.
If you tend towards being more shy, it will take more effort to become comfortable in one-to-one or group settings.
Why We Feel Social Anxiety
The reason we feel anxiety is because we get scared. Here’s why: we want to be accepted. It’s natural for us to want to be received well and d. When that becomes our obsession and keeps us from dating, then it becomes a problem.
Sometimes because of our fear, we may also feel that we need to control every situation we are in. Of course, we can’t…but we may still try. This obsession to control every aspect of our social relationships typically leads to even more anxiety. Because deep down inside we know we can’t control everything, we get more anxious about this.
Now let’s take a look at how anxiety can impact our dating life.
When social anxiety is experienced in dating situations we call it dating anxiety.
Over the years, many of my clients, friends, and family members have told me that they sometimes feel anxious about dating. Most singles experience a certain degree of dating anxiety and that is understandably human. It’s quite common.
Although it’s been several years, I remember my own dating anxiety. Sometimes it was a bit scary asking someone out. In those days it was expected that the guy would always ask the woman out, so men experienced more anxiety about initial rejection. Society has moved a long way towards more equality. Women are beginning to feel freer to ask for a date.
A Frequent Scenario
You’re at a social event. You know about half the people in the room, a few you recognize as acquaintances and the rest are strangers. You work the room and network and leave there with a few new contacts and plans to join a new group of women for Wine Wednesday. No problem. The next day, one of the men you met asks you out on a date.
You smile at the text he sends because it’s flattering, but that moment doesn’t last long. Suddenly, you freeze. You run through several scenarios in your head of what you might say or do and what his reaction might be.
How do I respond to him asking me out? What will I wear? Is it trendy enough? Do I really care about that? Is my personal style exciting enough for him?
Where will we meet? He wants me to pick the coffee shop?! What will you talk about? What if there is a lull in conversation?
And before you know it, you’re going to be too busy rearranging your closet to find an hour this week to meet for that cup of coffee.
And what’s worse? You might him, but your anxiety has become so strong that you find yourself making so many excuses to your friends to justify turning him down — he texted me, he should have called or he’s still in school and I’ve graduated, we are in different life stages.
How to Ease Your Pre-Date Anxiety
When you arrive at this stage, it’s time to stop and take a deep breath. Shrug your shoulders, slow down your breathing, and try to relax. There are a number of things you can do to lower your anxiety. Here are some of those tips that my single clients have found very helpful when dating.
Take the Focus Off of You
First, when on a date or talking on the phone prior to a date, a great way to reduce your anxiety about dating is to take the focus off of yourself.
Asking questions and finding out what your date is interested in is the best way to do this. Take note of the hobbies they listed in their profile and ask about it.
Let them do most of the talking but be sure to be actively listening. If they have a hobby you know nothing about, don’t panic, just ask them to explain.
People love to talk about themselves and their hobbies or other interests.
They could be sports, recreation, traveling, dining out, social causes, you name it. Plus, taking an interest in what’s important to them will ly be appealing to them. Focusing on who they are can help quell some of your own anxiety.
And an added bonus, you will probably learn something new!
Share What You’re Comfortable Sharing
The first few dates are for getting to know each other. If there’s not an intense connection right away, that’s very normal. Oversharing in the beginning, on either end, can be too much.
You and your date should not be sharing your deep dark secrets on the first date.
In fact, when people over-share and become instantly attached, it often fizzles out just as quickly as it started, leading to some serious heartbreak.
Remember to keep it light! Your first few dates should have a positive happy conversation. Avoid asking about traumatic, dramatic or any other negative events.
So, start slow and reveal only what you’re comfortable with in the beginning. Slowly, you can share more and more and get to know each other more intimately, once you’ve established some trust and built a foundation.
Knowing that you control what you share and don’t share can help ease some dating anxiety.
Be Nice to Yourself
Often dating anxiety (and social anxiety in general) is linked to low self-esteem.
This can cause you to “get in your own head” and overthink every detail, often putting a negative spin on it. Do your best to stay positive, optimistic and in the moment. Thinking about what might happen or could happen is exactly what your anxiety stems from.
You could start off your date by choosing an outfit in which you feel great about yourself, your favorite top or pair of jeans. Do your hair and makeup however you it. Don’t overthink this part.
Pretend you’re going out with a friend. You don’t need to buy something new, just be yourself. Instead of stressing out about what you’re going to wear, see if you can shift your mood.
Focus on having a fun and relaxed time.
Texting and Dating
Texting is a part of modern life and it’s particularly important when dating. It’s not uncommon these days for some budding relationships to spend hours on the phone having full-blown conversations via text.
However, when a relationship is starting to flower things can get lost in text translation. So, there may be some texting etiquette to keep in mind before the romance can fully bloom and/or not die on the vine. Hopefully, so many dating singles and couples I have worked with, these tips can help guide you while dating and texting.
The First Date
Typically, the first date tends to elicit more anxiety than subsequent dates. This makes sense because there’s so much more you don’t know before the first date. Simply accept that the first date will feel more awkward. You’re simply a normal person, having understandable reactions to the unknown.
Wondering where to go? Try choosing a place where you have been before. Knowing what the atmosphere is and what the menu will be can help alleviate some anxiety as well.
You may also find that it helps to work a bit with your breathing, especially if you focus on exhaling. Try the following exercise to see if you notice even a small drop in your anxiety.
Relax Your Mind, Relax Your Body
Your thoughts and your breathing may both be happening at a rapid rate. Some of your thoughts may be making your anxiety worsen. One tip that many find useful is to take a couple of deep cleansing breaths as follows:
- Slowly inhale through your nose. Drop your job jaw, and exhale through your open mouth (not through almost closed lips). This allows for a deeper exhale. This, in turn, releases some of your tension.
- Repeat this, one or two more times, but not more as it could make you dizzy.
By the way: This very simple breathing technique is a good life skill to have in any situation where you are experiencing fear, anxiety, and stress.
Sometimes It’s Simply Not Going to Go As You Hoped
Your date may not be quite who you thought they were going to be when you met in person. This happens to just about everybody. Perhaps you got stood up when she/he never showed. Unless they have an incredibly good reason for not showing they have actually done you a favor.
Of course, you’ll feel sad, disappointed, and frustrated. In reality, you don’t need them. But, they actually did you a favor by showing their lack of consideration early on.
It’s now much easier to check them off the list of frogs or frog-ettes you don’t need to spend any more time with.
When things don’t work out, many of my clients and friends have found the following to be helpful. Think of your life as if it were a play. You are the writer, director, and the leading woman or leading man. There will be people in various roles in the play of your life.
One of them is going to be your leading man or woman, your partner. When dating, you are simply conducting one or a series of auditions to find a partner for your life’s play.
Unless you’re incredibly lucky on your first date ever, you are ly going to conduct many auditions in the single chapter of your life. With some, you might want to have several auditions.
Some won’t make it to a second or third reading. And some you might try an extended audition with for many months…even years. Just keep auditioning until you find the right lead for you.
People who have used this technique report significantly reduced anxiety around dating.
The very nature of dating can feel a little superficial and judgmental. This is especially true with the rise in online dating. In your parents’ generation, they married their high school sweetheart or maybe college sweethearts and that was that. We can all probably agree that meeting people was easier when we were in school.
Whether still in school or already graduated, you’re studying or working. You might or might not want to date a fellow student or a co-worker and perhaps you pretty much know all your friends and their friends. So, if, for now, you’ve exhausted these possibilities, how do you meet new people?
OkCupid. Tinder. Bumble. Coffee Meets Bagel. The number of dating apps and websites is only increasing day by day. While this type of dating can seem extremely superficial, it may also increase or even decrease your dating anxiety.
With some apps, you get to know a little about the person before you actually meet them in person. That can lessen your anxiety. Having looked at their online profile, you might also feel you might want to go on a date but you’re not really sure. None of your friends know this guy or gal, and the lack of an endorsement from someone you trust could increase your anxiety.
You create your profile with photos you and add details about yourself, so you know that if you get a match the initial judgment of whether the person will find you attractive is over with AND vice versa if you don’t find that person attractive, you can decline without it having to be too awkward.
The next step of starting the conversation can be kept casual through text messages until you’re ready to talk on the phone or meet in person.
Safety Tips on Your First Date
One source of anxiety for many singles, and women, in particular, is the issue of personal safety. This is particularly true in the Age of Tinder. We’ve all heard some pretty scary stories about hooking up with strangers. Here are a couple of tips:
- Let a friend know you are going out with someone for the first time. Give that person your date’s phone number.
- Ask your friend to leave their phone on and shoot them a text at a pre-determined time to let them know that you’re ok.
- If you’re on a date and beginning to experience some discomfort or outright fear, here’s a great safety tip that just started in England. Click Ask for Angela. There is a growing international movement to adopt this easy way to ask for help in a discreet way. Knowing that you have taken these precautionary steps can help reduce anxiety around your personal safety.
These are just a few ways to cope with dating anxiety. If you sense that anxiety is potentially getting in the way of finding love in your life, feel free to reach out to me. We can discuss some additional ways you can overcome this so that you can have the life you really want.
10 Tips for Finding Love and Dating With Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is more than a social problem. It's something that can cause significant stress and discomfort, and in extreme cases possibly even cause panic attacks and feelings of low self-worth as a result of social situations.
But if you ask anyone that has social anxiety what their biggest regret is, it's that it's hard to date and find relationships. Meeting other people is, of course, very difficult when you're anxious in social situations. The following are ten different tips and strategies for dating and meeting people when you suffer from social anxiety.
Keep in mind when you're reading these that some of them do involve being brave and trying to challenge your fears. For some people, that can be hard – indeed, if overcoming your social anxiety was easy, you'd be doing it already. It's important to remember that the only way to stop social anxiety is to cure it altogether.
But there are smaller, more interesting strategies that can help you with some of your social anxiety issues and make sure that it doesn't interfere with your dating. The following are some tips to help you meet and date other people.
Tip 1: Exercise
Yes, the first tip is a boring one, but also extremely important. Exercise is probably the single most effective thing you can do for your anxiety because it provides several benefits that specifically affect those with social phobia:
- Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which are chemicals that improve mood and relaxation.
- Exercise calms muscles so that your anxiety symptoms are less severe.
- Exercise helps people feel better about their bodies and their health, which improves confidence when talking to someone with the opposite sex.
It has nothing to do with looks or weight. Rather, exercise provides some incredibly valuable benefits that promote better mental health, making it easier to talk to others.
Tip 2: Avoid Cliché Meeting Places, Find Smaller Groups
Social anxiety is at its worst in environments that promote too much social behavior. Many people with social anxiety still try to meet people in “normal” meeting spots, bars, clubs, or parties. But these places provide excess stress that is hard for someone to mentally overcome.
Try to attend small events where meeting people isn't a priority, and where you can also get used to smaller social situations.
For example, there are several places online to find hiking groups, and hiking groups are generally 4 to 5 people at most.
Even though such a small group of people means that you may not find someone you connect with, small groups also give you an opportunity to practice socially and could introduce you to friends, which in turn can help you meet someone someday.
Tip 3: If Anxiety Hits, Don't Be Shy About It
Shame is a common emotion with social phobia, where a person feels embarrassed when they start to experience anxiety during a conversation. While not everyone is comfortable doing this, many people find that it's helpful to simply let the other person know what they're experiencing:
“Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I am someone that suffers from some severe social anxiety, so I am experiencing a lot of nervousness in this conversation. My apologies if it makes me look distracted, as I am trying to overcome it.”
It's not something a lot of people share about themselves, but when you do share it, and you show that you're not embarrassed about it, it can make it easier to “get your head,” which is a common problem with most severe anxiety. When you try too hard to fight it and still hold a conversation, the anxiety often gets worse.
Feel free and do this on dates too. Most people will respect your honesty, especially if you don't pretend to be embarrassed about it, and those that do not respect your honesty are probably not people with whom you want to start a relationship.
Tip 4: Practice Without Expectations
They say that relationships are more ly to start when you stop looking for one. One of the reasons that this is probably true is that those looking for a relationship get overly focused on anyone they meet, putting a great deal of pressure on its success.
For example, a man that wants a relationship and has some anxiety will often get enough bravery to go up to some woman somewhere and talk to her, and once he does he'll start hoping and praying she's the one and put a great deal of pressure on a relationship growing from that one conversation. Then, if she simply isn't interested or has a boyfriend or what have you, he feels worse about himself and experiences more anxiety in the future.
That's why you need to practice in such a way that you have no expectations, ideally because no relationship can happen. For example, practice when you're in another state on vacation, or practice and give everyone a fake name. Try to talk to multiple people in a night and promise to yourself that you will give none of them your phone number or contact information.
You need to learn not to put too much pressure on any one relationship succeeding. Once you've done that, then you can worry about trying to meet the right person, and not “any” person.
Tip 5: Always Start Strong
If you do have enough bravery to go to an event and try to meet people, then make sure you start strong. Talk to the first people you see and introduce yourself. Go up to anyone you see around you.
Talk to as many people as you can. Getting into a groove is very important.
Those that wait and wait and wait are only going to experience more anticipatory anxiety, which will ly make their overall anxiety worse.
Those that have severe social anxiety and get panic attacks should also learn to control them.
Tip 6: Get/Use a Best Friend
Studies have shown that those that have strong social support are more confident and better able to meet people.
It's a good idea to try to make sure that you find and spend time with a best friend if you have social anxiety. When you go to social events, don't go to meet people.
Go to spend time with your best friend, where meeting people is a bonus. You'll feel far more supported that way, and your ability to branch out should improve.
Tip 7: Keep Going After Panic
If your social anxiety is strong enough that it causes panic attacks, one of the best things you can do – and one of the hardest, of course – is to keep going at the social event even if you get a panic attack.
Essentially, make sure you go to the social event expecting one, and once you get it, try your best to act it didn't happen. As severe as panic attacks are, the truth is that leaving a social event after a panic attack only reinforces the idea that a social event causes anxiety. You need to try to fight the urge to leave, and try your best to keep going.
The idea of “don't let the panic attacks win” is something that helps overcome them. Fear of the attacks is one of the issues that trigger more attacks. So by not letting them affect you as much, you reduce that fear at future events.
Tip 8: Learning to Breathe Better
Most of the physical symptoms of severe social anxiety are due to a problem known as hyperventilation. Hyperventilation is the act of breathing too quickly, although contrary to popular belief, hyperventilation is caused by too much oxygen and too little carbon dioxide, not the other way around.
Hyperventilation causes issues :
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pains
- Rapid thoughts
The adrenaline from anxiety leads to many of these symptoms as well, but hyperventilation is often the biggest culprit, especially for those with severe anxiety symptoms. That's why it's important to try to control your breathing when you have severe anxiety so that these symptoms dissipate.
To reduce hyperventilation symptoms, you're going to need to fight the urge to breathe too deeply. Hyperventilation causes people to feel as though they're not getting enough air, even though the opposite is true. Try the following:
- Breathe in very slowly through your nose – take as much as 5 seconds or more.
- Hold for 3 seconds.
- Breathe out through your mouth you're whistling for 7 seconds.
Continue for a few minutes. Once hyperventilation symptoms start they do not go away that quickly. But this type of breathing will make it easier to reduce the severity of the symptoms, and possibly stop your panic attack.
Tip 9: Stay Busy After Dates
With all forms of anxiety, but especially social anxiety, your mind is often your enemy. People think of anxiety as just fear, but anxiety changes the mind to create more negative thoughts as well.
After a date, try your best to stay as mentally busy as possible, either by talking to people on the phone, going out with your best friend, or surrounding yourself with technology and humor ( watching funny shows on TV).
Continue over the next few days.
Staying busy will prevent you from experiencing some of the negative thoughts that many of those with social anxiety experience after dates.
If you have social anxiety, you no doubt have picked apart your performance and looked for all of the things you may have done wrong.
That is a trap that can be very damaging, both for your self-esteem and for your ability to go on future dates. So stay as busy as possible so that you can't let these thoughts creep in.
Tip 10: Go Have Experiences
Of course, the final tip is just to go out there and have experiences – whether they have to do with social anxiety dating or not. Even vacations to exotic locations help with anxiety.
The more you let yourself grow as a person and experience what life has for you, the more you'll find that you're able to be confident in yourself around others.
You'll have more to talk about, you'll have a different perspective on life, and you'll often find that you figure out what you want from someone else as well.
Overcoming Social Anxiety and Dating
It's a challenge to date when you have social anxiety, since meeting people with anxiety can be so difficult. But it's also not necessarily the right idea to date when you're this anxious either. Instead, you should commit yourself to overcoming your social anxiety and then worry about dating if it happens in the interim.